NHS 111 computer system accused of killing patients

The NHS 111 system is used by non-clinical staff to triage calls. The system is designed to be over-cautious and has been criticised previously for dispatching ambulances to patients who could be seen by their GP or a visit a pharmacist and didn’t need an emergency ambulance or a bed in A&E.


Criticism has been made that call handlers have entered information incorrectly being distracted by a patients medical history when they are in respiratory distress.


Call handlers ‘ask a series of questions to assess your symptoms and immediately direct you to the best medical care for you,’ according to the NHS.

In February, Melissa Mead met Jeremy Hunt after a 111 call handler failed to spot her one-year-old son William had sepsis caused by an underlying chest infection and pneumonia.

Earlier this month an inquest heard that dinner lady Maureen Johnson, 52, waited for help for six hours after she first rang 111 but died hours later once she had been admitted to hospital.

The call handler on the controversial NHS 111 helpline ‘ignored and over-ruled’ a ‘red flag’ warning to send paramedics after hearing the woman’s symptoms.

The 111 call handling system had generated a ‘red flag’ warning when Mrs Johnson first called the service last November.

The call handler decided to over-rule it because Mrs Johnson, from Thornbury in Bradford, said she felt out of breath, but did not sound it on the phone.

Instead of sending an ambulance as the system prompted, the call was referred to a nurse who said she would pass it to the local out-of-hours service to see a doctor within two hours.

But Mrs Johnson’s details were accidentally sent to Oldham rather than Bradford and she was not seen.

The desperate woman then made a second call to 111 and told a different operator: ‘I think I’m going to die. My chest is tightening up.’

Ann Walters, 61, died after a nurse cancelled the emergency response vehicle which had been heading to her, an inquest heard last month.

An investigation found the call handler had ‘not demonstrated an understanding of heart failure’ when dealing with the call.

Source: Daily Mail

Dave Hawkins